Key Points about Cardiac MRI for Heart Disease

  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic test that uses radio waves, magnets, and magnetic fields to produce detailed images of the heart’s structures. 
  • Your doctor may order a Cardiac MRI to monitor or detect heart disease or to view your heart’s function and anatomy. In many cases, a Cardiac MRI provides the best images of the heart.
  • The test is not harmful, but medical devices may malfunction. Make sure to tell your doctor if you have any metal implants in your body. 
  • An MRI is not painful but having to lie still in a narrow space can be uncomfortable. 


A Cardiac MRI is a test that is used to detect, or monitor heart disease, view your heart’s anatomy, or to determine how the heart is functioning. A Cardiac MRI uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make detailed images of the heart. The Cardiac MRI machine is often tube-shaped, but in some cases, it can be more open.

Candidates for a cardiac MRI

Your doctor may order a Cardiac MRI to:

  • Monitor or detect heart disease.
  • Evaluate the function of the heart’s chambers or heart valves.
  • Understand how blood is flowing through the heart’s vessels and the sac around the heart.
  • Diagnose heart and blood vessel disorders, including cardiac tumors or inflammatory infections.
  • Plan treatment for a patient’s heart condition.
  • Reveal any effects from coronary artery disease such as reduced blood flow to the heart muscle or scarring after a heart attack.
  • Monitor the progression of a disease over time.

Preparing for a cardiac MRI

You may have a Cardiac MRI in an outpatient or inpatient setting. 

In preparation for a Cardiac MRI, you will be given a gown to wear and asked to remove:

  • Clothing
  • Jewelry
  • Hearing aids
  • Hairpins
  • Any other objects that may interfere with the MRI.

If you are getting a Cardiac MRI with contrast dye, your nurse will start an IV line in your arm, where the dye will be injected.

Expectations during a cardiac MRI

You will lie on your back on a table that slides into a large scanning machine. Your technician will use pillows or straps to help you stay still during the test. 

The technologist will be in an adjacent room and will speak to you through speakers inside the scanner. If you experience any issues during the test, you can use a call button inside the scanner to inform the technologist. He or she will be closely monitoring you through the scan.

  • You can listen to music or use a headset to block out any noise from the scanner. 
  • You may periodically hear a clicking noise when the magnetic field is created, and radio waves are sent from the scanner to the machine. 
  • You will need to stay very still during the process to ensure high image quality. At specific points in the test, you may need to hold your breath for a short period. 
  • If contrast dye is used, you may feel minor discomfort or coolness at the IV site that will only last a couple of seconds.
  • Let your technologist know if you have any breathing problems, sweating, numbness, or heart palpitations. 
  • As soon as your doctor gets all the images they need, you will be moved out of the scanner, and you can get up off the table. If you had an IV line, it will be removed. 

Duration of a cardiac MRI

A Cardiac MRI scan can take between 20 and 45 minutes. If you have a complex heart condition, it may take an hour or more.

Recovery from a cardiac MRI

You may feel dizzy or lightheaded when sitting up after the scan. If you need a sedative for anxiety, you will need to rest until the sedative has worn off.

If contrast dye was used, you will be monitored for side effects for a short period.

If you develop pain, redness, or swelling at the IV site, inform your provider. This could be a sign of infection. 

In most cases, you can return to your normal activity level and diet after the test.  Your doctor will give you individualized instructions after the MRI if necessary.

Find a cardiologist near you

Bon Secours locations that can treat you